MacDill airmen hoping commanders will follow Dyess’ lead and allow personal weapons on base

In  the wake of deadly shootings in Chattanooga, at Ft. Hood and at the Washington Navy Yard, Air Force commanders are taking steps to keep their airmen safer while on base.

At bases like MacDill in Tampa, Fla., however, changes aren’t coming soon enough.

More than two-thirds of airmen at MacDill say they want to be able to carry weapons on base — something only law enforcement personnel are currently allowed to do.  On Jan. 26, a survey was given by Air Force Col. Dan Tulley, commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill.

According to the Tampa Tribune, of the 357 airmen that responded to the survey, which asked: “Do you think we should be allowed to carry weapons on base?” — 68 percent said yes. The poll  reflects only the views of those who answered — about 12 percent of the wing’s 2,900 uniformed personnel.

Other bases like Dyess in Texas already allow authorized personnel to “transport and secure privately owned handguns in privately owned vehicles within the legal boundaries of Dyess Air Force Base.” To do so, they must carry a current and valid Texas Concealed Handgun License or a reciprocating state concealed carry license, according to the Tribune.

The December decision of Col. David Benson, commander of the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess, does not permit carrying concealed weapons on base. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kia Atkins, a Dyess spokeswoman, said the changes made there were in response to the Chattanooga shooting and other events and were enacted  “after military personnel and retirees asked the wing commander for greater access to weapons on base.”

Despite the results of the survey at MacDill, no changes are “imminent” there, according to officials.

David “Bo” Bolgiano, a retired Army colonel said he was a little surprised with the results, because he would have expected 90 percent of uniformed personnel to support allowing troops to carry weapons on base. Bolgiano believes it’s a mistake not to allow service members, who are trained to use weapons in stressful situations, to bring weapons on bases.

“When a gunfight erupts, you can’t say, ‘Timeout, hold on, I have to run to my car and get my weapon…It continues to perplex me, in light of all that has gone on, with attacks on U.S. service members at recruiting stations… that we are setting up forces for failure,” he said.

After the Chattanooga shootings though, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said, “I think we have to be careful about overarming ourselves, and I’m not talking about where you end up attacking each other.”

Experts believe it all comes down to the training — that in active shooter situations there must be trained personnel who will be able to interdict before police arrive and who will stand down when law enforcement does get to the scene.

Following Chattanooga, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James outlined for base commanders three different ways to respond — in the event of a similar situation on base.

One of those methods of action is called the Unit Marshal Program, which allows security forces to train airmen and allow them to openly carry an M9 pistol at their duty location.

The Tribune reports that this program and two others were developed by the Air Force Security Forces Integrated Defense team to enable base commanders to increase protections.

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